Traditional Ricotta – twice failed mozzarella

Traditional Ricotta ©Rhonda Adkins-1


I used to call myself a lazy cook, and in some ways that’s true.  I don’t like to make more work than is necessary.  I use the minimal amount of dishes to prepare a meal.  I’m all about rinse and reuse.  I’ll break some rules, especially in baking for minimizing my dishes (like mixing the dry ingredients together, making a well and whisking the wet ingredients together, than mixing it all).

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a lazy cook, I’m an efficient cook.  I’ll chop and drop if I can get away with it but I’ll do my mise en place when I can’t…but I’ll have it spread out all over my cutting board, for a stir fry as an example…why dirty another bowl?

I do the dishes as I go also, even though McGyver mostly does the dishes.  But then again, maybe he does because I minimize the damage?  Very efficient!

I came to the conclusion that I’m not lazy in the kitchen when I realized, hey Rhonda, you make almost everything from scratch.  Not only that but I process my hubbies game, make my own sausage and take up great adventures liked making pasta and homemade cheese.

Traditional Ricotta ©Rhonda Adkins-2

My new adventures have led to failures and yet I persevere.  Lazy people accept failure, it’s easier.   I’m obviously not a lazy cook; I’m more of a glutton for punishment.  It would be so easy to just buy mozzarella cheese, why must I make it?  Indeed I have been asking myself this because not once, but twice I have not been able to make mozzarella.

At the amount that I have invested at this point, it would actually be cheaper and easier to buy mozzarella but now I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.  Well, we’ll just do without until I can figure it out…this 1 hour supposedly easy cheese.

I used the book “The complete Idiot’s Guide to Cheesemaking”.  So I’m beyond idiot because it just hasn’t worked for me.  I’ve mulled through the troubleshooting guide.  It could be that I over stirred it (first time, maybe.  Second time, no way), my milk is too pasteurized (very likely but you can’t buy raw milk in Montana), my rennet may not be good (I was supposed to freeze it as soon as I received it, ooops) but I still don’t think that’s it because I get curds.  It could be the recipe itself, this recipe calls for microwaving…not very traditional for sure.  I think most likely it is the milk, anybody else have thoughts?

Being efficient cook also means that very little goes to waste, or in my case it goes to waist.  Hehe, you know I love puns.  When you have failed mozzarella what do you do?  You make ricotta from the whey.  Ricotta is a cheese that’s not really a cheese in the traditional sense.  Its name literally means twice cooked.

Once cheese curds are separated from the whey, you have a very unappetizing greenish colored whey liquid, by bringing that up to heat then adding milk, the leftover protein’s get to work and cause the milke to coagulate into curds. The curds are skimmed and can be eaten immediately as a very soft spreadable form, or put into a plastic basket lined with cheese cloth and allowed to let the residual whey to drain off for a more solid ricotta.

Traditional Ricotta ©Rhonda Adkins-3

My ricotta was a complete success!  I chose to put it in the basket and let it drain to dry out some.  I took a small bowl and inverted in a large plastic container, put the ricotta basket on top, sealed it and left if be for a couple of days.  Mostly because I was a bit disheartened by my failure; as for the mozzarella curds, I treated them exactly the same way.

A couple of days later, I put my big girl panties on and tried it again.  Close but no cheese, at least not the kind I was shooting for.  By now I was thoroughly frustrated.  I chopped some roasted garlic and rosemary, mixed it in with the curds and did the basket thing again.

So now what?  All the cheese was consumable, even if the mozzarella didn’t turn elastic-y.  Have you ever heard of Lasagne In Bianco?  As the name implies, it’s white lasagna. It calls for 3 ¾ cups whole milk and ¼ pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano, flavored with stock, Marsala and shallots.  My little pea brain figured that I could mix the ricotta and mozzarella curds, stir in some stock, Marsala, shallots and salt with some parm and I would essentially have the same effect.  No need to do flour and butter to thicken it.

kale ©Rhonda Adkins-1

I layered my lasagna with the rich sauce, lump crab meat and shrimp sautéed with leeks.  I also used blanched Lacinato kale (also known as Dinosaur kale, it’s a popular kale in Tuscany), hoping it would cut some of the richness and add a little color (so much for a pure Bianco but then this wasn’t traditional anyways). Plus if you eat kale, it makes everything automatically healthy, right?

Seafood lasagne & kale ©Rhonda Adkins-1

It was wonderful! I think I could have left the pasta out and just used the kale (I’m sure gluten free person has already thought of it…). Psst, I’ll tell you a secret, I decided to be efficient and use prepared lasagna sheets and not make my own.The other batch of failed mozzarella, I stuffed in egg roll wrappers and froze for a future dosing of some marinara sauce and a round in the oven.  So one day I’ll get up the gumption and get off my not so lazy ass and try making mozzarella again, but I think I’ll take a break for a while.  Or at least until I eat up my last batched of failed mozzarella.  Who knows maybe I’ll just start a new product: Spreadable mozzarella? Mozzarella cream?

Seafood Lasagne ©Rhonda Adkins-1

I’ll leave you with the recipe for the traditional ricotta, hopefully it’ll be made from a successful batch of cheese versus a failed one.


Traditional Ricotta
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1 batch fresh whey from making a batch of cheese such as mozzarella
  2. ½ gallon whole milk
  3. 2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  4. ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Reheat whey to 195°F (do not let it boil). Add milk to whey. Stir the mix slowly until it comes back to 195°F. The curds will float to the top. Remove the pot from the heat.
  2. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, remover the curds from the pot into a heat proof container, being careful to let as much as the whey drain off before adding it to the bowl.
  3. Add the lemon juice to the whey one tablespoon at a time to form more curds. Once curds start forming, stop adding the lemon juice. Skim off the new curds and add to the bowl of other curds. Mix in salt.
  4. Use immediately or for a drier ricotta you can place in fine mesh cheesecloth and squeeze out the excess whey, or place in a cheesecloth lined ricotta basket. Invert a small bowl in a larger sealable container, place the basket on it and cover. Refrigerate up to 1 week.
  1. Yields 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Adapted from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making" by James R. Leverentz
Adapted from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making" by James R. Leverentz
The Kitchen Witch
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8 Responses to Traditional Ricotta – twice failed mozzarella

  1. Karen March 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Dang… too bad about the mozz, but the lasagna looks divine!

  2. Debra March 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    I found more success with using the microwave method as opposed to the water bath dipping method on the mozzarella. (It has been so long since I have made it that I have forgotten what the technique is called.) I also ended up with some really runny mozzarella that ended up as a great cheese dip. Hey, have you made bread out of the whey yet?

    • Giggles March 15, 2013 at 6:18 am #

      Bread from the whey? No, you’ll have to tell me more about this!

      • Shana Something July 17, 2013 at 7:49 am #

        My apologies for jumping in like this, but I just had to comment on the whey in bread thing. Simply use the same amount of whey as you would water in any bread recipe. If there is a taste difference, it’s close to imperceptible, but the real bonus is that you’re using something instead of throwing it away and any extra bit of goodness you can put into homemade bread has got to be good. Since I’ve started making mozz and ricotta, I’ve not bought a loaf of bread from the store, either.

        • Giggles July 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

          Shana, Thanks for the tip about using the whey to make bread, I’m sure it adds more nutritional value also! I hate to waste, I love the idea!

  3. MadSCAR March 20, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Love it! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  4. kaela March 20, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Check out the troubleshooting tips by Ricki Carroll the “Cheese Queen:” More than you ever wanted to know about making mozz!

    I have trouble getting consistently good mozz myself: I think it is like bread and it just takes practice. If you get a good, firm curd out of the pot, but the curds won’t come together, or “break” after heating in the microwave, you may be over-heating the curds (I do that one a lot). Also, one thing I will do it turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit off heat for 10 or 15 minutes, to clear the whey and firm up the curds prior to heating & stretching. Often find that helps. If all else fails, switch up your source of milk: doesn’t have to be raw, but different dairies heat to different processing temperatures; yours may be too high. Good luck!

    • Giggles March 20, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks Kaela for all the tips! Its a very distinct possibility my curds are getting too hot in the microwave. The easiest thing to do would be to switch my brand of milk, I’ll try that also. I will make mozz, sooner or later!